Thursday, September 16, 2010

6th grade art passports

My 6th graders are caught somewhere between elementary and middle school. They are part of the middle school for much of their schedule, but still come to the elementary art and music rooms, and have art on an elementary schedule. I see them twice in a 6 day rotation. BUT they get a number grade on their report card, like middle schoolers, so these "passports" are what I devised for their grading system. I used the idea of a passport because some of what we do in 6th grade art takes us to different places, cultures, civilizations, and eras in history. So a passport seems to suit their art program. I'll explain how we make them and how the grading works.

First, we make a tagboard cover, and 2 punch half-holes on the spine. We punch matching half-holes on the folded pages to put inside. Here's how a page looks opened after being punched.
Then, the pages are stacked on the open cover, and a rubber band is inserted from one hole to the other. A stick is slid through the rubber band ends on the outside of the cover. This time, I used meat skewers cut to length, but I've used drink stir-sticks, branches, etc. The possibilites are endless, and the assembly process is quick and easy.

For their best grade, students had to follow some basic guidelines: their name had to be on the front and their teacher's name or initial on the back. After that, they were to personalize them however they wanted. Here's Emily's front cover, and yes, those basic rules are written on a BLACKBOARD!!!!
Here's the front page that needs to be filled in. Then, the other pages all have a place to write the name of the assignment, and something about your work. Again, here's what Emily wrote. The blank page to the right is where I write my comments, plus I stamp it with a different stamp for each project, and sign, date, and record the grade. I haven't done that yet.

Below is Kyla's example of what she wrote in her passport. In the second photo, you'll notice the drawing of herself that she did on the front page. I told the kids, as was written on the blackboard, that if they included pictures of themselves they would get extra credit. I like Kyla's imaginative interpretation of that opportunity to boost her grade.
These are the qualities I look for when determining grades for all 6th grade art projects and assignments:

The kids absolutely love using the passports (they get to keep them at the end of the year) and think it is really cool to get grades in art!


  1. Awesome I love how you bound them too! That is a brilliant idea that I have to steal if we do a book project. I love consistency and communication this accomplishes that and makes life easier. I just got back from a meeting and our district is changing our report cards again for the third time in 4 years!!! Talk about chickens with their heads cut off. I've given up on grading we don't even know what scale we're grading on. I'm still giving criteria just don't do any recording till I find out what the new flavor of the week is. Okay I'm done venting:) Sorry but I know you would understand my angst being as organized as you are!!! I wish my kid was in your art class!!!!

  2. Yes Erica, I've been through the report card thing too, and the 6th grade is a kicker. They began being 'middle school' last year. I was told to give them SEMESTER grades since I don't see them enough to have a good numerical average in 10 weeks, and then, 3/4 way through the year last year I was asked for grades the day they were due. I said I wasn't giving grades until end of semester, not at 10 weeks, but they had been put on the computer and a number was required. I needed the grades THAT DAY (last day before April break). Guidance said she'd just "enter a grade of 95 for everyone" which infuriated me -why was I grading the work if everyone always earned an A? So I stayed in school till 6pm, calculating averages, long after everyone had left for vacation.
    And then there's the elementary. One year it's an "S" for satisfactory, another year it's an "M" for meets expectations, and I went a whole year giving the wrong grade with nobody telling me. So go ahead and vent all you want. I just did too!!

  3. Good to know! I thought the whole grading problem was just my district! Now we have to grade according to Connecticut Mastery Test strands or something. We have to relate art criteria to CMT strands "to make it easier for parents:" ???? . . . nod and smile.

    I don't know about you but also be aware of "grade changes". That usually happens when we submit grades then someone else records them.

  4. I do the same kind of binding with pencils though for our visual journals! Love this grading idea! I am considering starting grading at the 5th and 6th grade levels but we are in the process of rewriting curriculum so I'm going to wait but this is a fun idea for how to approach the grade. I saw that you are presenting at the NYSATA conference... me too! I actually proposed a similar workshop. Mine is "Going Beyond the Sketchbook". More of a visual journal workshop... I'd love to see your altered books. See you in Nov.!

  5. Jennifer, how did you know I am presenting at NYSATA? I have yet to see a conference bulletin, and I just checked online and it isn't available yet. I've been starting to worry, because getting permission from my district is going to be tough this year,and I want the time to make sure I present it properly to get it approved, even if I have to pay my own way. I present each year partly to make my BOE feel guilty if they don't approve my attendance! I wrestled over ideas for presenting this year, and this one is definitely a gamble. But it won't be anything like your workshop, I'm sure. This is more of a collage/sculptural open-ended project. I'll see you in Rochester!